by N. Peter Kramer
With vaccination campaigns in EU member states stalled because there is not enough of approved vaccines, vaccination in the United Kingdom is going fast, due to the urgence of the situation. The faster rate at which the UK, Israel and the US are vaccinating is increasing pressure on EU governments and particularly the European Commission, which is coordinating the joint EU vaccine strategy. This joint EU approach intended to benefit the member states is showing the weakness of the Commission quite clearly. Markus Soder, leader of Germany’s Christian Social Union (CSU), partner of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), expressed this by saying: ‘The European Commission has planned too bureaucratically: too few of the right (vaccines) have been ordered and price debates have gone on for too long’. He added in an interview with Germany’s newspaper Bild am Sonnntag: “It is difficult to explain that a very good vaccine (that of Pfizer/BioNTech) has been developed in Germany but is administered more quickly outside the EU. The EU procurement procedure was inadequate’.
Soder refers to the more than one million UK residents which have already received this vaccine at this moment. The reason the British are ahead is that, like the Americans, they have chosen to issue temporary emergency permits. The British regulator explained that no vaccine would be approved for delivery in the UK if it failed to meet the expected safety, quality and efficacy standards’. EU member states also have the right to resort to an emergency permit, but they are still waiting for full market authorisation for the EU Medicines Agency (EMA). The AstraZeneca vaccine, which also plays a crucial position in the EU vaccine strategy, will not be available till mid-January.
The European Council decision to place the European Commission centre stage in the vaccine roll out was applauded at the time and encouraged by some as a step towards inclusion of Health in the EU ‘s remit. Now it seems as though the decision and subsequent delays may in fact hurt rather than help the europhile’s case.